Fordham Notes: Seamus Heaney's "Verses for a Fordham Commencement"

Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney's "Verses for a Fordham Commencement"

Seamus Heaney at the 1982 Commencement.

It was a rain soaked commencement in 1982 when Seamus Heaney delivered the 137th commencement address to students of Fordham University on the Rose Hill campus. Heaney read a 46-stanza poem written in metrical verse, "Verses for a Fordham Commencement," to a wet crowd of 3,000 graduates who had been moved from Edwards Parade into the gymnasium. Fellow honorary degree recipients former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Muppet creator Jim Henson accompanied him onto the stage. 

In the days that followed The New York Times ran a picture of the soaked graduates on Page 1 along with a selection from Heaney's verse. The commencement made national headlines, including in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner under the headline, "Fordham Flash--or, sure things get bad but they rarely get verse."

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Dbbmel said...

The passing of Seamus Heaney brings back a story of my father, Vincent P. Brennan class of 1941 who was also chair of his class' 40th year reunion. Dad was a keen observer of literary talent and a reader of poetry who ultimately published his own book of poems "Windows." after reading Seamus Heaney's work, my father wrote a letter to Father Finlay suggesting that Fordham invite Heaney to be a commencement speaker. Though Dad knew Father Finlay he did not receive a reply to his letter. It was only in reading the paper when he discovered that Heaney was indeed invited to speak at the commencement. In Dad's last days we sat together and listened to a wonderful CD of Seamus Heaney reading his poems interspersed with harp music. Heaney's poems gave comfort to my father, a lover of words and poetry and our family mourns the passing of the great bard for his work.

News Blog said...

Thanks for the kind words.